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Seattle Youth Employment Program Celebrates Another Successful Summer

Last month, the City of Seattle celebrated the 2023 Seattle Youth Employment Program (SYEP) interns during their annual capstone event. Over 200 youth, mentors, and family and friends gathered at El Centro de La Raza’s Centilia Cultural Center and Outdoor Plaza to celebrate this summer’s intern class. Mayor Bruce Harrell joined them to thank the many employers that partnered with the City this year. He celebrated the program’s 50th anniversary and proclaimed 2023 to be “The Year of Youth Development in Seattle.”

SYEP program staff sign in interns and their guests at a welcome table set up in the plaza with fun giveaway items available with the SYEP logo on them

Program leaders and participants say SYEP helps youth and young adults in our community open doors into the workplace and take control of their futures. The program focuses on young people from lower-income households, and communities that experience racial, social, and economic challenges. This year nearly 250 interns were connected to paid internships with 100 different local businesses, nonprofit organizations, and City of Seattle departments.

Youth and young adults chosen for the six-week paid internships receive pre-employment training to aid in their professional growth and career exploration, and they get professional support from a trusted mentor throughout the summer. They also gain practical experience to build a resume and potential connections to advance their career or education. In many cases, interns who have already graduated from high school have gone on to new, paid internships with City departments or into entry-level jobs.

Mayor Bruce Harrell embraces Kenny Ouedraogo as they switch places for speaking at the podium during the event

“Young people are an important part of our workforce and deserve opportunities to learn, grow, and pursue a career that is meaningful to them,” said Mayor Harrell.

Kenny Ouedraogo interned in Mayor Harrell’s office. During the capstone event, he shared the work he’s been doing—researching and responding to constituent emails, observing the inner workings of City Hall, and shadowing the mayor. Kenny’s site supervisor, Constituent Services Communications Manager Patricia Johnson, described how Kenny has embraced this opportunity and demonstrated natural leadership abilities. He made strong impressions, built relationships with other staff members, and embodied a public servant mindset with an empathetic heart, she said.

This year Hien Nguyen was selected as a summer intern at Woodland Park Zoo. “I get to experience some exclusive experiences at a zoo,” she said. “It’s [something] the normal guests cannot have … It’s very special to me.”

Emma Tovar, Learning Coordinator at the Zoo, was asked what she enjoys most about being a site supervisor: “Seeing their passions and seeing how they are really dedicated to taking that next step, and really advocating for themselves and what their future opportunities will look like,” she said.

A SYEP intern works with a youth seated in front of a computer with two screens showing a colorful, geometric graphic image being created on one based on code typed on the other.

SYEP interns also led a free summer electronics “makerspace” workshop in partnership with Seattle University’s Innovation Lab, designed to stimulate curiosity and creativity in the community. Open to all staff, students, and youths aged 11 and up, the friendly collaborative workspace event offered an exciting hands-on experience with electronics equipment and adults to help guide their use. What you build, you take home, making this the perfect introduction to engineering and Seattle University.

“The best part of my job is watching a young person go from the very beginning—starting a goal and creating steps to reach that goal,” shared Tara Vallimont, Sr. Youth Development Counselor with SYEP. “That may be getting a job, discovering their career path, or building their resume for the first time.”

Three Black women, a grandmother, mother, and daughter, smile for the camera. the grandmother is wearing a T-shirt with a SYEP logo on it.

Participants in the program represent Seattle’s rich diversity, and each internship placement provides unique opportunities for the interns. After 50 years, the program has now seen three generations participate. Some, like Barbara Thomas (pictured in the SYEP shirt), return to work for the program.

“It’s been such a great opportunity, working closely with others and especially with professionals who’ve been doing SYEP for years and years,” agreed Jurry Flores, who interned with at HSD. “Learning after them and being on the job is just really helpful and gave me the experience that I always wanted. I’m glad I did this, and I bet you would be too, if you did it.”

Click on the image below to watch a short video about Seattle Youth Employment Program. Visit to learn more about the program today. Applications for the Fall 2023 programs are open until Tuesday, September 26.

Screenshot of a Seattle Channel video on YouTube showing SYEP interns and staff posing for a group photo with Mayor Bruce Harrell with fingers raised in the air to signal #OneSeattle